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November 12, 2007

LATimes Update on Chinese DVD Piracy [5:26 pm]

Film not out yet on DVD? You can find it in Chinapdf

The store is symbolic of Hollywood’s frustration with piracy in the vast and potentially lucrative Chinese market. It epitomizes everything the American film industry considers unfair about the country: a government that turns a blind eye to the flourishing black market while restricting imports of movies, DVDs and music.

About 93% of the movies sold in China are counterfeit — black-market discs are sold in stores and by legions of roaming vendors who peddle them at subway stations and from their bicycles. Some make home deliveries.

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Unbelievable [5:20 pm]

A discussion of HR 4137 (whose text has not reached Thomas), but this article has a copy: Democrats: Colleges must police copyright, or else

New federal legislation says universities must agree to provide not just deterrents but also “alternatives” to peer-to-peer piracy, such as paying monthly subscription fees to the music industry for their students, on penalty of losing all financial aid for their students.

The U.S. House of Representatives bill (PDF), which was introduced late Friday by top Democratic politicians, could give the movie and music industries a new revenue stream by pressuring schools into signing up for monthly subscription services such as Ruckus and Napster. Ruckus is advertising-supported, and Napster charges a monthly fee per student.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) applauded the proposal, which is embedded in a 747-page spending and financial aid bill. “We very much support the language in the bill, which requires universities to provide evidence that they have a plan for implementing a technology to address illegal file sharing,” said Angela Martinez, a spokeswoman for the MPAA.

Support? Or wrote? The bulk of the text of the bill seems to focus on textbook piracy, section 487 definitely points a finger at P2P distribution generally. Section 705 - Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education includes this kind of language:

‘‘(10) the support of efforts to establish pilot programs and initiatives to help college campuses to reduce illegal downloading of copyrighted content, in order to improve the security and integrity of campus computer networks and save bandwidth costs;

I am not in a position to interpret the implications of some of the changes cited in the text. However, I have to say that it seems like it’s going to take something like that to confirm the claims in this article. All I can find that seems even pertinent is the following — and its language is not all that apparently draconian:

SEC. 487. INSTITUTIONAL AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE INFORMATION FOR STUDENTS.

(a) DISCLOSURE OF POLICIES AND SANCTIONS RELATED TO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.—Section 485(a)(1) (20 U.S.C. 1092(a)(1)) is amended—

(1) by striking ‘‘and’’ at the end of subparagraph (N);

(2) by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (O) and inserting ‘‘: and’’ ; and

(3) by adding at the end the following new subparagraph: ‘‘(P) institutional policies and sanctions related to copyright infringement, including— ‘‘(i) an annual disclosure that explicitly informs students that unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject the students to civil and criminal liabilities;

‘‘(ii) a summary of the penalties for violation of Federal copyright laws;

‘‘(iii) a description of the institution’s policies with respect to unauthorized peerto-peer file sharing, including disciplinary actions that are taken against students who engage in unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials using the institution’s information technology system; and

‘‘(iv) a description of actions that the institution takes to prevent and detect unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material on the institution’s information technology system.’’.

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Laura Holson’s Looking For A Pony [1:06 pm]

As fights go, this one will be a doozy, and I would be stunned to find the FCC supporting the a Carterfone for wireless policy: Cellphone Straitjacket Is Inspiring a Rebellion

At the heart of the tension between the different camps is whether the wireless network should be open, much like the Internet is today, or remain under the watchful control of companies like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone. Carriers, who paid billions of dollars to build their networks, are unwilling to open them.

For others, change can’t happen soon enough. As such the alliances and partnerships struck now are likely to shape the industry over the next five years.

After all, this is the same FCC that’s at the heart of this little fight: first read F.C.C. Planning Rules to Open Cable Market (alternatively, there’s FCC Moves to Place Restrictions on Cable TVpdf)

The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to impose significant new regulations to open the cable television market to independent programmers and rival video services after determining that cable companies have become too dominant in the industry, senior commission officials said.

[...] Officials say the finding could lead to more diverse programs; consumer groups say it could also lead to lower rates.

Sounds like an FCC that’s getting ready to jump into the cable market to reshape it for customers, right? Then read this from the same edition of the NYTimes, but in a different section: Note to N.F.L.: High Prices Cut Demand, which puts a different spin on the whole thing:

The league, you’ll recall, is furious that Comcast and Time Warner, with their combined 38 million viewers, have so far declined to add the four-year-old NFL Network to their basic digital tiers. The league is charging cable companies 70 cents per subscriber per month, making the network one of the most expensive channels in the cable universe, far pricier than such cable staples as CNN, CNBC and the Discovery Channel. With Comcast and Time Warner on board, that rate would generate over $300 million for the N.F.L. from the subscription fees alone.

Of course, as the Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett points out, putting the NFL Network on basic digital would also “raise everybody’s cable bill by a buck or more.” Which is why the cable giants have so staunchly resisted; in the words of Melinda Witmer, Time Warner’s head of programming, the NFL Network “doesn’t satisfy the price-value equation.”

That’s her diplomatic way of saying that the network is a rip-off [...]

So here we are, less than two weeks from Thanksgiving. The first NFL Network game of the season, the Colts against the Falcons, is nearly upon us. The cable companies are showing no signs of folding. And what is Jerry Jones doing? He’s running to the regulators and the politicians, just as he threatened to do when I spoke to him a month ago, claiming that the cable companies are abusing their power as gatekeepers of television content.

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